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How to Sleep When Pregnant: Tips for Better Rest

written by / March 10, 2022
How to Sleep When Pregnant - Featured

Many expecting couples believe that a good night’s sleep will be impossible after their baby is born. However, many don’t realize that peaceful sleep during pregnancy can be even more difficult to get. 

At some point in her pregnancy, a woman is likely to experience sleep problems. This brings up the question of how to sleep when pregnant.

During the first trimester, pregnant women typically sleep more than usual. It’s normal to feel tired as your body “works” to protect and feed your baby. 

The placenta (the organ that supplies the fetus with nutrients until birth) has just formed, and your body produces more blood, which is then pumped faster by your heart. This makes you tired, and it makes you need more sleep. 

Pregnancy and Lack of Sleep

Sleep quality often decreases as early as the first trimester, especially among women who are already experiencing the most common pregnancy discomforts

Problems with a stuffy nose during the night (due to elevated estrogen levels and dry nasal mucosa) or nausea and vomiting play a significant role in getting a restful night’s sleep.

Moreover, regardless of your sleeping position during pregnancy, in the first 3 months and on, insufficient sleep can also be caused by a constant urge to urinate. As the abdomen continues to grow, it gets harder to find a position to sleep in that eases this pressure. 

Pregnancy-induced heartburn can also impact sleep patterns. Fortunately, there are many home remedies for this ailment.

Interestingly, insomnia could also be a symptom of an impending birth—i.e., the body keeps you alert, so get ready to experience many sleepless nights for the last month. Therefore, both sleeping a lot during pregnancy and not sleeping at all are possibilities.

No matter how tired you are, finding a comfortable position in bed and maintaining it all night can be one of the biggest challenges as your pregnancy advances. 

Restless sleep begins in the first trimester when increased pressure on the bladder can cause you to run to the bathroom more often than usual. At later stages, as described above, you may also suffer from:

  • indigestion
  • heartburn
  • leg cramps.

When it comes to sleeping well during pregnancy, all of these issues can be a concern. As a result, you may experience difficulties finding a comfortable way to support your bump. And when you finally find peace, some well-placed baby kicks can wake you up all over again.

Why Do Sleep Problems Occur In Any Sleeping Position During Pregnancy?

The first and most important cause of sleep problems is the increasing size of the fetus. Additionally, sleeping on your stomach or repositioning yourself in bed becomes more difficult as your pregnancy progresses. 

If you’ve always slept on your back or belly before pregnancy, it can be hard to start sleeping on one side. In the first trimester, you might feel more tired or faint, and it’s sometimes possible for you to fall asleep at any time and in any posture.

Usually, sleeping too much during pregnancy becomes less of an issue during the second trimester. But in other cases, it continues up to the baby’s delivery.

If you’re experiencing excessive sleeping, give yourself more time to rest, and try to steal every free minute to sleep. Even a 30-minute nap is enough to help you feel better.

Common Physical Symptoms That Can Affect Your Sleep 

Frequent Urination

Your kidneys start working harder to filter the increased volume of blood moving through your body (30%–50% more than you had before pregnancy). The result of this filtering process is a larger amount of urine. 

Moreover, as your body grows and the uterus expands, the pressure on your bladder increases. This means more frequent visits to the toilet during the day and night. The number of visits you make at night may be higher if your baby’s fairly active during this time of day.

Back Pain

Back or leg pain is brought on by your increased weight. Sleeping on your back during pregnancy not only risks hampering the fetus’s blood supply, but it can also further intensify any pain in your back.

Increased Heart Rate

Your heart rate increases during pregnancy to allow your heart to pump a more substantial amount of blood, and the more blood you give to the uterus, the faster your heart will beat to send enough blood to other parts of your body. 

Accelerated Breathing

You may have breathing difficulties as the growing uterus takes up more and more space, leading to increased pressure on your diaphragm. At the same time, you may notice that you’re breathing harder, the main reason for this being the increased need for oxygen.

Acidity and Constipation 

During pregnancy, the entire secretion system slows down its work, so food stays in the stomach longer. Heartburn or constipation may occur as a result. Sleeping upright while pregnant helps alleviate these symptoms. 

Pregnancy and Dreams

Many pregnant women have more realistic or vivid dreams than usual, some even becoming nightmares. Stress also affects sleep—you might be worried about the baby’s health, whether you’ll be a good parent, or how the baby will change your life. 

Sometimes moms-to-be feel nervous about the birth itself. All these feelings are normal, but they can keep you awake at night. However, every case is unique. 

Is it normal to sleep a lot during pregnancy?

If you’re having a complicated pregnancy or constantly worry about what you need to do to keep your baby healthy, you’re under stress. All this, combined with stranger dreams, will affect the quality of your sleep.

If you make sleep a priority in your daily routine, you’ll get most of the benefits that accompany great sleep, such as:

  • boosting the immune system
  • controlling your blood sugar levels
  • reducing stress.

You can read even more helpful facts about sleep in this infographic.

Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

The more your pregnancy progresses, the harder it is to find a comfortable position to sleep in. Sleeping on one side and leaning your belly on a pillow is a great choice. This way, the baby won’t press on your organs, and blood flow won’t be restricted.

At the same time, sleeping on your left or right side reduces the likelihood of back pain, a condition we already know can wake you up at night. Sleeping on your back while pregnant interferes with blood circulation, which is the primary reason it isn’t recommended. 

At the beginning of your pregnancy, try to start a habit of sleeping on one side. Lying on one side, preferably on the left, with slightly curved knees, is probably the most comfortable posture for the entire pregnancy. 

This is also considered the best sleeping position during pregnancy because it benefits circulation in both the mother and the baby. It prevents any extra pressure caused by the baby’s weight on the inferior vena cava, by which the blood goes to the heart. 

Also, because the liver is on the right side, lying on the left protects this organ from uterine pressure.

Sleeping Aids During Pregnancy

Following these tips can increase your chances of a comfortable night’s sleep:

  • Limit the intake of beverages with caffeine (such as coffee and tea). Also, don’t drink them in the evening.
  • Avoid large amounts of liquids and don’t have too much food late in the evening or before you go to bed. A sumptuous breakfast and lunch and a light early dinner may be what you need.
  • If nausea often wakes you up, maybe eat some biscuits before going to bed—or something else that’s gentle on your stomach.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and for activities like reading. Don’t use it for work or similar responsibilities.
  • Try to always go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise just before you go to bed. Instead, try something relaxing.
  • If anxiety keeps you awake, consider taking pregnancy classes. The knowledge you’ll glean and the company of other pregnant women can help you relax.
  • Consider getting an adjustable mattress—it can often improve sleeping during pregnancy.

What to Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep

Instead of tossing and turning, worrying about this and that, and counting the hours till dawn, get up and do something. 

  • Read a book.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Watch something soothing.
  • Take a nice, calming shower.
  • Have a light snack before going to bed, like a banana or a few almonds. 

Eventually, you should feel tired enough to go back to bed.

Conclusion

The adverse effects of sleep deprivation are well-known, but they’re even less desirable for pregnant women. Although it’s expected, lack of sleep during pregnancy can affect one’s health. 

Luckily, there are various ways to improve its quality without harming you or the baby. We hope that at least part of what we’ve shared here will help you get more rest.

FAQ

Can I hurt my baby by sleeping on my right side?

One of the best sleeping poses is on the left side. This position is ideal for circulation and blood flow—both for the mother and baby. 

However, sleeping on the right side is the second best sleep position if that’s your preference. You can even alternate between these two positions if you’re having trouble getting comfortable. 

When should I stop sleeping on my stomach while pregnant?

You certainly can sleep on your tummy for as long as it’s comfortable, which will roughly be for the first 3–4 months. Still, even though this is physically possible, it isn’t the best position. 

Sleeping on your stomach later during pregnancy isn’t recommended because it risks putting pressure on the baby. Nevertheless, as the pregnancy advances and your bump starts showing, this sleeping position becomes more and more challenging anyway.

Can I sleep on my back while pregnant?

Sleeping on your back during pregnancy isn’t recommended due to circulation problems for both mother and baby. If your normal sleeping posture is on your back, it isn’t a problem if you continue this sleeping practice during the first trimester. 

But when your uterus begins to weigh more, usually by the third month, it’s best to choose another sleep position.

What happens if you accidentally sleep on your back while pregnant?

Don’t worry too much if you end up sleeping on your back. It’s perfectly natural to change your posture in your sleep. However, if you want to help yourself sleep more comfortably and not turn during sleep, you could try using pillows. 

How long is it safe to sleep on your back while pregnant?

The vena cava blood vessels are responsible for bringing blood up to your heart’s right chamber. Therefore, pressure on them can mean reduced blood flow. Needless to say, this is something to be avoided. 

So, it’s not recommended to sleep on your back after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy or so, when the uterus becomes significantly bigger and it can put pressure on the inferior vena cava.

How many hours should a pregnant woman sleep?

Women who are used to getting eight hours of sleep every night may require up to ten during pregnancy. However, some women spend less time in bed in the weeks preceding their pregnancy, averaging six to seven hours rather than the usual eight. 

Those women may be more preoccupied with their job and household obligations. So, it is recommended they sleep for at least eight hours and take a brief nap during the day.

How to sleep when pregnant in the second trimester?

The best sleeping position during the second trimester and later is the left side, as it provides uninhibited blood flow to the fetus and kidneys. 

How to sleep with a body pillow when pregnant?

Some women find that putting a pillow under the stomach or between the thighs is the best option. 

U-shaped or O-shaped pillows are the most comfortable for pregnant women. So, if you want to know how to sleep when pregnant with the help of this pillow, consider getting a larger bed. These pillows tend to be bulky, and you’ll need more space.

At medical school, it was easy to realize that sleep is crucial while studying during the many sleepless nights I spent. As a new mom, when the lack of sleep became even more evident, this was the real moment when I started appreciating the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Since sleeping is so essential to our health and immune system, I took it upon myself to educate people on different aspects of sleep by sharing the valuable information I have learned.